This poem is part of an ecopoetry project by San Mateo County Poet Laureate Aileen Cassinetto made possible by The Academy of American Poets with funds from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Contributors: Cassandra Bousquet, Chloe Chou, Bellamy Cramer, Ronit Das, Arda Inegol, Samantha Ishikawa, Maya Kornyeyeva, Iris Li, Caroline Lim, Allen Mata, Hanna Docampo Pham, Emma Roginski , Marissa Teng, and Payton Zolck, with additional lines by National Youth Poet Laureate Alexandra Huynh.

Published in Nature & Culture 2021 (Copenhagen: Red Press Kulturhuset Islands Brygge & Københavns Kommune, 2021).

Film premiere at Kulturhuset Islands Brygge Cultural Center on November 21st & 28th, 2021.

Breathe

San Mateo County Youth Toward a More Sustainable Future

There is a pattern we burn
into the night sky, & it will not be of chemical
but compassion for all that is light.

Last year I woke up and
the sky was tangerine,
sick with smoke

because we live in a world where
things are valued more dead than alive
and where we value today so much

we don’t even think about tomorrow,
but in less than twelve years
we’ll be running out of tomorrows.

So tell me,
how do we redefine value?
Humans are warming the planet

Smoke days replace our parents’ snow days
Being told the children are the future
Uncertain if we have one in store

Look around you
Breathe if you can
It’s code red for humanity.

Hazy skylines
the redness of the map
Plumes of black smoke, billowing,

mixing with lavender clouds and orange flame
Yellowed lawns in my neighborhood
The taste of burnt toast in my mouth

Parts of my community lost
As decades of damage, destruction, and hate
Come down like a meteor that never saw space.

We must be united to fight it
We must all take accountability
Reduce CO2 and methane emissions to zero.

We have caused this
We are the only ones who can fix this
We can have a sustainable future.

Sitting in my bedroom staring at the screen
Wondering if this is always what I’ll see
Longing for action, longing for change

Saving the world from climate change
I am learning, struggling, and exploring
Right now I want to make a difference

To know I am safe
I want to live in a world with no pollution
With rainbows in the skies.